LANDFILLS: New Landfill Infrastructure Offers Challenges Managers Demand Regs

What was once a town dump is now a complex, engineered landfill. As a result, today's landfill managers must go beyond compacting and covering the waste to understand the new landfill infrastructure.

Advances in landfill design, including gas flaring systems and leachate recirculation processes, have made landfill operations more challenging. The integrity of these designs can only be achieved and maintained through proper operations.

The use of geosynthetics, for example, poses a challenge. When a lined landfill cell goes on line, the first lift of trash must be carefully monitored to ensure that large, sharp objects do not penetrate the liner and damage the leachate collection system. Landfill equipment must be kept off areas where the landfill liner could be damaged and with the advent of geosynthetic landfill caps, landfill managers must place soils to maintain slope stability. The use of alternative landfill covers, such as spray-on foams and manufactured fabrics, is expected to become increasingly popular, particularly at larger landfills that are designed to meet an area's long-term solid waste disposal needs.

As landfill design engineers continue to develop more sophisticated designs for a variety of materials and specific site conditions such as foundation stability, wetland protection and progressive capping, it has become increasingly important for design engineers and landfill managers to work as a team. The landfill manager can assist the design engineer by concurring that the facility can be operated as designed and by raising operation and maintenance issues that need to be considered in the design. This partnership has become critical to the successful operation of a modern landfill.

Today's managers are no longer responsible for the landfill alone. Fully integrated solid waste management sites may include myriad solid waste facilities that also require operational care. For example, the Bee Ridge Landfill in Sara-sota, Fla., includes a construction and debris recycling center, yard waste composting area, hazardous waste transfer station and a state-of-the-art landfill gas flaring system, which requires conscientious and frequent monitoring.

The landfill manager is the front-line individual expected to respond to citizen questions or complaints concerning landfill operations. Many landfill managers routinely meet with the facility's neighbors to help maintain a good relationship, as well as with regulatory agencies to ensure compliance.

In addition, the landfill manager is responsible for the financial success of the facility. This role includes managing funds and pre-paring budgets for the future needs of the landfill.

To help landfill managers handle these new challenges, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) established the Manager of Landfill Operation (MOLO) certification program in 1987. The national program has evolved to meet the changes in landfill management. For example, before Sub-title D was enacted, much of the course focused on the upcoming regulations. Now, with Subtitle D in effect, the MOLO certification program focuses on landfill monitoring, safety, compaction and waste acceptance screening.

Minnesota offered the first landfill operator certification course in 1982, and now approximately half of the states. require landfill operator certification. As evidenced by the increased popularity of certification programs, the range of knowledge and skill base for effective landfill management is expanding and complex.

Landfill management has come a long way in just 10 years, and the future of landfills has been predicted to be even more exciting.